Genesis 29:23
And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.
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(23)He took Leah his daughter.—As the bride is taken to the bridegroom’s house closely veiled (see Note on Genesis 24:65), and as probably there was some similarity in voice and form between the two sisters, this deception was quite easy. But Leah must have been a party to the fraud, and therefore Jacob’s dislike of her was not altogether without reason.

Genesis 29:23. He took Leah and brought her to him — This deceit he might the more easily practise, as it was customary in those times to bring the bride to her husband veiled, and without lights. This guile of Laban undoubtedly sorely grieved Jacob; and perhaps it happened as a punishment to him for the guile he had used in supplanting his brother.

29:15-30 During the month that Jacob spent as a guest, he was not idle. Wherever we are, it is good to employ ourselves in some useful business. Laban was desirous that Jacob should continue with him. Inferior relations must not be imposed upon; it is our duty to reward them. Jacob made known to Laban the affection he had for his daughter Rachel. And having no wordly goods with which to endow her, he promises seven years' service Love makes long and hard services short and easy; hence we read of the labour of love, Heb 6:10. If we know how to value the happiness of heaven, the sufferings of this present time will be as nothing to us. An age of work will be but as a few days to those that love God, and long for Christ's appearing. Jacob, who had imposed upon his father, is imposed upon by Laban, his father-in-law, by a like deception. Herein, how unrighteous soever Laban was, the Lord was righteous: see Jud 1:7. Even the righteous, if they take a false step, are sometimes thus recompensed in the earth. And many who are not, like Jacob, in their marriage, disappointed in person, soon find themselves, as much to their grief, disappointed in the character. The choice of that relation ought to be made with good advice and thought on both sides. There is reason to believe that Laban's excuse was not true. His way of settling the matter made bad worse. Jacob was drawn into the disquiet of multiplying wives. He could not refuse Rachel, for he had espoused her; still less could he refuse Leah. As yet there was no express command against marrying more than one wife. It was in the patriarchs a sin of ignorance; but it will not justify the like practice now, when God's will is plainly made known by the Divine law, Le 18:18, and more fully since, by our Saviour, that one man and woman only must be joined together, 1Co 7:2.Jacob is betrayed into marrying Leah, and on consenting to serve other seven years obtains Rachel also. He claims his expected reward when due. "Made a feast." The feast in the house of the bride's father seems to have lasted seven days, at the close of which the marriage was completed. But the custom seems to have varied according to the circumstances of the bridegroom. Jacob had no house of his own to which to conduct the bride. In the evening: when it was dark. The bride was also closely veiled, so that it was easy for Laban to practise this piece of deceit. "A handmaid." It was customary to give the bride a handmaid, who became her confidential servant Genesis 24:59, Genesis 24:61. In the morning Jacob discovers that Laban had overreached him. This is the first retribution Jacob experiences for the deceitful practices of his former days. He expostulates with Laban, who pleads the custom of the country.

It is still the custom not to give the younger in marriage before the older, unless the latter be deformed or in some way defective. It is also not unusual to practise the very same trick that Laban now employed, if the suitor is so simple as to be off his guard. Jacob, however, did not expect this at his relative's hands, though he had himself taken part in proceedings equally questionable. "Fulfill the week of this." If this was the second day of the feast celebrating the nuptials of Leah, Laban requests him to Complete the week, and then he will give him Rachel also. If, however, Leah was fraudulently put upon him at the close of the week of feasting, then Laban in these words proposes to give Rachel to Jacob on fulfilling another week of nuptial rejoicing. The latter is in the present instance more likely. In either case the marriage of Rachel is only a week after that of Leah. Rather than lose Rachel altogether, Jacob consents to comply with Laban's terms.

Rachel was the wife of Jacob's affections and intentions. The taking of a second wife in the lifetime of the first was contrary to the law of nature, which designed one man for one woman Genesis 2:21-25. But the marrying of a sister-in-law was not yet incestuous, because no law had yet been made on the subject. Laban gives a handmaid to each of his daughters. To Rebekah his sister had been given more than one Genesis 24:61. Bondslaves had been in existence long before Laban's time Genesis 16:1. "And loved also Rachel more than Leah." This proves that even Leah was not unloved. At the time of his marriage Jacob was eighty-four years of age; which corresponds to half that age according to the present average of human life.

21. Jacob said, Give me my wife—At the expiry of the stipulated term the marriage festivities were held. But an infamous fraud was practised on Jacob, and on his showing a righteous indignation, the usage of the country was pleaded in excuse. No plea of kindred should ever be allowed to come in opposition to the claim of justice. But this is often overlooked by the selfish mind of man, and fashion or custom rules instead of the will of God. This was what Laban did, as he said, "It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born." But, then, if that were the prevailing custom of society at Haran, he should have apprized his nephew of it at an early period in an honorable manner. This, however, is too much the way with the people of the East still. The duty of marrying an elder daughter before a younger, the tricks which parents take to get off an elder daughter that is plain or deformed and in which they are favored by the long bridal veil that entirely conceals her features all the wedding day, and the prolongation for a week of the marriage festivities among the greater sheiks, are accordant with the habits of the people in Arabia and Armenia in the present day. That I will not take; Heb. If I shall take. Understand, God do so and so to me, which is expressed 1 Samuel 14:44. A defective manner of swearing used amongst the Hebrews, either to maintain the reverence of oaths, and the dread of perjury, seeing they were afraid so much as to mention the curse which they meant; or to show that they were willing to submit to any punishment which God should inflict upon them, without exception, if they violated their oaths.

Even to a shoe-latchet, i.e. any thing, though never so small or mean, lest thou shouldst claim a share with God in the honour due to him, to whose blessing alone I do and I will owe my riches. Or, lest thou shouldst say, Abram is enriched with my spoils; and however he pretended kindness and charity, yet indeed it was his covetousness that put him upon this work.

And it came to pass in the evening,.... After the feast was over, and the guests were departed; when it was night, a fit season to execute his designs, and practise deceit:

that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him, to Jacob, in his apartment, his bedchamber, or to him in bed: for it is still the custom in some eastern countries for the bridegroom to go to bed first, and then the bride comes, or is brought to him in the dark, and veiled, so that he sees her not: so the Armenians have now such a custom at their marriages that the husband goes to bed first; nor does the bride put off her veil till in bed (o): and in Barbary the bride is brought to the bridegroom's house, and with some of her female relations conveyed into a private room (p); then the bride's mother, or some very near relation, introduces the bridegroom to his new spouse, who is in the dark, and obliged in modesty not to speak or answer upon any account: and if this was the case here, as it is highly probable it was, the imposition on Jacob is easily accounted for:

and he went in unto her; or lay with her as his wife; a modest expression of the use of the bed.

(o) Tournefort's Voyage to the Levant, vol. 3. p. 255. (p) Ockley's Account of Southwest Barbary, c. 6. p. 78.

And {h} it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.

(h) The reason Jacob was deceived was that in ancient times the wife was covered with a veil, when she was brought to her husband as a sign of purity and humbleness.

23. he took Leah] The bride was brought to the bridegroom enveloped in a veil; cf. Genesis 24:65. “The bridegroom can scarcely ever obtain even a surreptitious glance at the features of his bride until he finds her in his absolute possession.” Lane, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians.

24 (P). Zilpah his handmaid] For the custom of the bride being attended by her own servant to her new home, cf. Genesis 24:59.

Verse 23. - And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him. The deception practiced on Jacob was rendered possible by the fact that the bride was usually conducted into the marriage chamber veiled; the veil being so long and close as to conceal not only the face, but much of the person (vide Genesis 14:65). And he went in unto her. The conduct of Laban is perfectly intelligible as the outcome of his sordid avarice; but it is difficult to understand how Leah could acquiesce in a proposal so base as to wrong her sister by marrying one who neither sought nor loved her. She must herself have been attached to Jacob; and it is probable that Laban had explained to her his plan for bringing about a double wedding. Genesis 29:23But when Jacob asked for his reward at the expiration of this period, and according to the usual custom a great marriage feast had been prepared, instead of Rachel, Laban took his elder daughter Leah into the bride-chamber, and Jacob went in unto her, without discovering in the dark the deception that had been practised. Thus the overreacher of Esau was overreached himself, and sin was punished by sin.
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